Getting there: From Austin head northwest on Hwy 183to Lampasas. Head west on FM 580 through Bend. Following the signs to the park leading onto a dirt road. The Park HQ is located along the shore of the river requiring the passage of 8 miles of dirt road (6 within the park).
Looking back on the trail near the trailhead. The cliffs to the right are on the opposite side of the Colorado River.
The guided tour to Gorman Falls may provide the most scenic hike in Colorado Bend State Park, but the Spice Wood Springs Trail provides several waterfalls of its own and is open to all visitors during normal park hours. One is also free to tackle the trail at one's own pace.
The hike starts at the waypoint "Trailhead" on the topo map. This marks the parking area south of the park headquarters along the Colorado River. The first half mile of the trail follows the Colorado on its flat alluvial plane. The park cuts a wide trail through the thick grass that would other wise grow here.
The Colorado River as seen along the trail.
The waypoint "CC1" is the near the point at which the trail turns north and starts to make its way up the Spicewood Springs Creek canyon. At this point the trail difficulty rating ticks upward and will rise further later on. It's also the first of many creek crossings. While on the trail be on the lookout for the brown trail markers that mark the far sides of the trail. At some crossings mavericks trails appear more visible than the official trail that crosses the creek. The markers may be the only way to tell for certain.
The trail gets tougher as it snakes its way up the Spice Wood Creek canyon.
The waypoint "Overlook" provides one of the best views of the hike. The trail here hugs a sheer cliff overlooking a waterfall at the base of the canyon. The canyon walls on the opposite side of the creek serve as backdrop. This would be an ideal place to stop for lunch if not for the fact that there's not much room to set up without blocking the trail.
The trail is surprisingly tough at times. It hugs sheer cliffs overlooking the creek and
scrambles over rock piles. The toughness actually caused me to accidentally get off trail at one point when I missed a trail marker indicating a creek crossing. The official trail was such that a maverick trail, if it was a trail at all, looked like the right way to go until it completely closed up on me in dense Cedar. Upon doubling back I finally spotted the marker on the other side of the creek.
Looking down onto the waterfall from the overlook. Nice place for lunch, if you can find room.
The waypoint "CC7" marks the last crossing before the trail begins to work its way uphill and away from the creek. If you've come strictly for the rough trail and waterfalls this might mark an obvious choice for a turnaround. Once the trail tops out on a plateau the path becomes flatter and the skies open up more as thickets of trees give way to brush.
A view of the trail as it hugs the creek.
The waypoint "Turnaround" is not actually where I turned around, but it does mark the logical end to the Spice Wood Springs Trail. From here a trail to the west leads to the Upper Gorman Creek Trail system and the trail to the north leads to the Riverside Trails.
In all I saw about a dozen people on the trail, the vast majority within the first three quarters of a mile from the trailhead. Though the first half mile can be biked realize that bikes are not allowed after the first creek crossing in the south or the trail junction turnaround point in the north. The stated length of this hike is 2.5 miles, which counts trail miles, not total hiking mileage if you do an out and back. Double up the mileage if you do.